John 15 is one of the most important passages in the New Testament about the believer’s union with Christ. This union, which is ours by faith, is the basis of our right standing before God the Father and our shared inheritance of every spiritual blessing and promise of God. But our union with Christ is also the basis for all God-honoring productivity.
There are several interesting observations about productivity and the Christian that we can make in this chapter. John 15:5 says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and l in him, he is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” Those who are in Christ bear much fruit. Or, we could say, Christians are productive. We’ll look much more at the nature of this fruit and what the relationship between vine and branches says about Christian productivity in later chapters. But for now, I want to note what this passage indicates about the origin of our productivity. Christian productivity is not primarily about who we are, but whose we are. Christian productivity begins by acknowledging that we belong to Christ.
It’s not my life. It’s His.
If you believe in Jesus Christ, you belong to God. That’s why we call Him Lord. It’s an act of submission to His claim on every aspect of our lives, including our work, our ambitions, how we manage our time, and everything in between. The apostle Paul couldn’t have put it more plainly: “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19b-20). It’s not your life because you were bought and paid for. To redeem productivity, therefore, we must begin by considering our own redemption.
To redeem literally means to buy back, pay a ransom for, or reclaim as one’s own. You see the concept of redemption in the Old Testament “right of redemption? According to Mosaic law, a person had the right, under certain conditions, to purchase back a piece of family land that had previously been sold (see Lev. 25:25-29 and Jer. 32:7-8). The plotline of the book of Ruth centers on this kind of redemption. The story culminates with Boaz marrying Ruth and purchasing back the land that would have belonged to her deceased husband, because another relative refused to redeem it for her (Ruth 4:6). Boaz is said to be acting on Ruth’s behalf as a “kinsman-redeemer” — someone with the right and responsibility to rescue a relative from poverty or trouble (Ruth 3.9; 4:9, 10; see also Lev. 25:47-55). But the biblical concept of redemption goes beyond real estate.
In the ancient world, one could buy back prisoners of war. If you paid the price, you had the right to redeem your people from an enemy nation. This was true of slaves as well. When the New Testament speaks of believers being redeemed by Jesus Christ, it’s using this concept in a spiritual sense. When God redeems a sinner, He is buying us back from the slave market of sin. Your price has been paid. So, if your price has been paid, does that mean you are free? Yes, in a sense. Redeemed people are set free from sin, but now they belong to a new master. Romans 6:22 says, “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves of
God” You were bought by God. Now He is your Lord and Master. You belong to Him, and so does the work of your hands. Now, instead of offering our productive efforts to be used for unrighteous and self-gratifying work, we offer them to our new Master for His work. “Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness” (Rom. 6:13). But to fully appreciate how amazing this transformation is, we must recall that redemption always requires payment. And the price of our spiritual redemption was steep.
*I excerpted this article from Redeeming Productivity from Reagan Rose and Moody Publishers.